Simple Lessons in a Complex World

By Angela Noel

March 9, 2017

“It’s like raisin bread,” Ryan Allshouse explained, drawing a blue rectangle on his white board studded with blue dots, “As the bread bakes, it expands and the raisins get farther away from each other.”

“I still don’t get it,” I said. “How can the universe be expanding? Expanding into what? The bread expands into the air. Where there was air, the bread is now taking up the space. When the universe expands what gives way?” I cross my arms and tap my foot, brow furrowed, unhappy with the raisin bread explanation.

Ryan laughs. “I don’t know.”

Years ago, Ryan might have kept this conversation going. He might have argued with me and showed me the research on the expanding universe and why, from a space/physics/science-y perspective, my question was silly. But this Ryan, older, wiser, and passionate about knowledge and deep thoughts, has learned the importance of not-knowing. He’s learned the immeasurable value of the one statement every human can (and should) make, regardless of years of study and expertise.  Continue reading “Simple Lessons in a Complex World”

A Weekly Way to Share the Good

by Angela Noel

February 23, 2017

“Don’t go looking for trouble;” Sookie Stackhouse, heroine of The Southern Vampire Series often says, quoting her wise grandmother (who in turn was paraphrasing Proverbs 11:27), “it’s already looking for you.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, author and philosopher, offers a different but related perspective, “Man only likes to count his troubles; he doesn’t calculate his happiness.” Even if you aren’t a fan of either Sookie or Dostoyevsky, it’s difficult to deny there’s truth here: Trouble is looking for us whether we like it or not, and we tend to focus on it, even when we’re trying not to.

But, trouble is neither all bad, nor all encompassing. At least, it doesn’t have to be. We can follow a different path. One highlighted by poet Mary Oliver in her poem Sometimes:

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be Astonished.

Tell about it.”

I think Mary’s on to something, so I’m creating a way to share the good. I’m calling it “Awesome Nuggets: A Weekly Way to Share the Good” and I hope you’ll join me. Continue reading “A Weekly Way to Share the Good”

The Big Bang of Self-Awareness

By Angela Noel

February 16, 2017

Twenty-three and recently single after a painful break up, graduated from college but still waiting tables, I pretended to myself that I was already both confident and self-aware. I needed neither parents nor boyfriend, my ego told me, I could figure this “being an adult” thing out on my own.

One night, I finished my shift and decided to meet my friend Reggie at the little bar he managed. Littered with mismatched throw rugs and comfy couches, Kingman’s Lucky Lounge on Grand Avenue in Oakland, California seemed as good a place as any for me to spend my time and a few of the dollars stashed in my apron pocket.

My own personal Big Bang awaited me inside the mirrored walls of the Lucky Lounge.  Continue reading “The Big Bang of Self-Awareness”

Living on the Edge of Fun and Scary

by Angela Noel

July 21st, 2016

We bumped along a rutted dirt road in a rented SUV, parking a quarter mile from the trailhead that would lead us to the summit of Mount Democrat.  We hoisted backpacks stuffed with water, food, dry socks, and extra clothes onto our backs. The thin, 38 degree air nipped at our hands and faces left exposed by our light down coats. We looked ready to conquer a mountain or two.

While I’ve run a few 10K’s, Paul, my significant other, and our friends, Dan and Jayme are veterans of marathons, triathlons, and obstacle courses, (and in Jayme’s case, an Ironman). But, winded by the walk from the car to the trailhead, even they worried that our less than 24 hours at altitude had not been enough time for our sea-level dwelling bodies to adjust. I began to sweat.  Continue reading “Living on the Edge of Fun and Scary”

How the Threat of Losing Her Job Set One Woman Free

by Angela Noel

July 13th, 2016

“You know that scene in Runaway Bride? The one where she doesn’t know how she likes her eggs?” Melissa asks me.

“Sure,” I reply.

“I always think of that scene. That was me until last year.” Mel leans in, her black hair framing her face, “I chose never to really make a choice. The path that had been laid out for me, had become ME.”

Get good grades. Do well in sports. Get promoted at work. These were the stars Mel had been invited by well-meaning family and friends to steer her life by. Content to follow this advice for the most part, Mel smiled and maximized whatever life served up. That is, until the layoffs began. Continue reading “How the Threat of Losing Her Job Set One Woman Free”

5 Ways to Change Your Mindset

by Angela Noel

July 7th, 2016

“Our love of being right is best understood as our fear of being wrong”Kathryn Schulz

My seventh grade home economics class taught me an important lesson, but it wasn’t how to sew.

Assigned the task of creating a garment, I picked a pattern for what I thought would be a cute pair of shorts. I bought the fabric, pinned on the tissue paper shapes, and cut. Using a sewing machine, I punched a line of thread through the hem. The line, supposed to be neat and straight, looked as if I had traced rolling hills instead. Fearing a bad grade, I told the teacher I intended the design. I even wore the terrible, turquoise, wavy-hemmed shorts the next day to class. My teacher, Mrs Hart, gave me an “A”. I gained no skill in sewing. But I learned how to sell and reap the benefits of a convincing lie. Continue reading “5 Ways to Change Your Mindset”

Beauty is Everywhere: Be the One to See it

By Angela Noel

June 23rd, 2016

Confucius said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” This sign, posted in an alley in my neighborhood, made my day. The sign maker took the time to not only witness the turtles experiencing the first journey of their lives, but commemorated it for others, like me, to see. Confucius would be proud.

Simple things, like seeing beauty in baby snapping turtles and telling others about it, can change the world, one story at a time.

I don’t know who made and posted this sign. But he or she gave me, and any others who saw it, a whimsical and poignant memory. Below is a tiny tale about the turtles and their human, my  way of paying that gift forward. Continue reading “Beauty is Everywhere: Be the One to See it”

Happiness is Not a Chocolate Fudge Cake

by Angela Noel

June 9th, 2016

Is this wise, little creature a chicken or an owl? I’m going with owl. Either way, this doodle is awesome. It both makes me smile and reminds me that creating happiness isn’t like making a chocolate fudge cake. My happiness doesn’t depend on a mix of specific ingredients, baked at just the right temperature, then only enjoyed at birthdays and special occasions (or when the grocery store has free samples, in my case). Continue reading “Happiness is Not a Chocolate Fudge Cake”

Do it Anyway: Explore the Edge of Your Comfort Zone

“Home” is a Heart Place: Matthew French is Awesome

by Angela Noel

May 30th, 2016

M. French
Singer/Songwriter Matthew French

“Snow is falling, winter’s calling. I am far from home.” Matthew French sat in a coffee shop on New Year’s Day and the words of a song, his song, whispered inside his mind. Would he listen? Continue reading “Do it Anyway: Explore the Edge of Your Comfort Zone”